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Trump has launched a blitzkrieg in the wars on science and Earth’s climate

Posted on 28 March 2017 by dana1981

Today, Trump signed executive orders taking aim at America’s climate policies. On the heels of a report finding that the world needs to halve its carbon pollution every decade to avoid dangerous climate change, Trump’s order would instead increase America’s carbon pollution, to the exclusive benefit of the fossil fuel industry. 

Trump’s anti-climate executive orders

One part of the executive order tells the EPA to review and revise (weaken) its Clean Power Plan and methane regulations. However, revising these regulations isn’t so simple. It requires proceeding through the same years-long rulemaking process the EPA used to create the rules in the first place. This involves considering the scientific evidence, crafting draft rules, responding to millions of public comments, and defending the new plan in court. Environmental attorneys are confident “this is another deal President Trump won’t be able to close.

A second part of the executive order tells the EPA to ignore the government’s estimated price on carbon pollution. The Republican Party wants to lower the current estimate, but most evidence indicates the government is dramatically underestimating the cost of carbon pollution. Trump gets around this inconvenient evidence by ordering the EPA to simply deny the existence of those costs.

A third part of the executive order ends a moratorium on new coal leases on public lands before a review is completed to determine if taxpayers are being shortchanged due to the lands being sold too cheaply. Environmental groups are set to immediately challenge this order. Regardless, lifting the moratorium would have little effect on coal production or mining jobs.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt would undoubtedly be happy to follow Trump’s orders. In his previous job as Oklahoma Attorney General and fossil fuel industry puppet, one of Pruitt’s 14 lawsuits against the EPA was aimed at the Clean Power Plan. However, the Clean Air Act requires the government to cut carbon pollution. Trump and Pruitt may not like it, but the law, scientific evidence, and public opinion fall squarely against them.

Trump’s anti-science budget

A few weeks ago, Donald Trump released his first proposed budget, and it’s also fiercely anti-science and anti-climate.

Trump budget director on climate change funding: “We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money.”

Among other cuts, it would slash nearly one-third of the EPA budget, hundreds of millions of dollars from the NOAA research budget, and terminate four NASA Earth science missions as part of a $102 million cut to the agency’s Earth science program. 

The budget even goes as far as to propose eliminating Energy Star – a purely voluntary program that helps companies certify energy efficient products, saving Americans money while cutting carbon pollution in the process – possibly out of pure spite for the climate.

Trump has been consistently anti-science

Trump’s anti-science and anti-climate agenda doesn’t come as a surprise; before he even took office, there were early signs that Trump would put public health at risk by scrapping climate and other environmental policies. He began by nominating numerous anti-climate, pro-industry individuals to powerful positions in his administration. Those appointees quickly made their influence known, launching an inquisition into Department of Energy staffers who had worked on climate change, trying to gag government scientists, and scrap the EPA climate webpage.

In the face of public outcry, the Trump administration retreated on these fronts. But they regrouped, and over the past several weeks have surged forward with a rejuvenated attack on climate science, environmental protection, and the future of our planet and its inhabitants, to the benefit of big polluters with big wallets. Meanwhile, a Washington Post analysis found that Trump has moved to fill just one out of 46 key government science and technology positions. And for the position of presidential science advisor, he seems to only be considering climate deniers.

What on Earth does EPA stand for?

With its new administrator Scott Pruitt confirmed by Senate Republicans, “EPA” now seems to stand for “Environmental Plunder Agency.” In an interview on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Pruitt sounded more interested in trying to bring back coal jobs than in protecting the environment. To that, America’s top coal boss said:

I suggested that he temper his expectations ... He can’t bring them back.

In one of his first Tweets after taking the job, Pruitt spoke of the stakeholders whose interests he sought to protect:

I’m dedicated to working w/stakeholders - industry, farmers, ranchers, business owners – on traditional values of environmental stewardship.

Soon thereafter, the EPA’s Office of Science and Technology Policy mission statement no longer used the word “science.” A few days later, Pruitt rejected decades’ worth of climate science research, giving the following answer when asked on CNBC if carbon dioxide is the primary control knob for the climate:

No, I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So, no, I would not agree that’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.

Pruitt was wrong on both points – carbon dioxide is the main climate control knob (NASA scientists even published a 2010 paper with those exact words in the title), and there is a 97% expert consensus on this question. Predictably, Pruitt’s comments evoked harsh responses, not just from climate scientists but also from business, military, faith, and conservative leaders and elected officials. For example, leading climate scientist Kevin Trenberth said:

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Comments 1 to 15:

  1. Like in case of T-man anti-climate coverage during his campaign by mainstream meida - subject of previous SkS article - I want to know how much of this news will be covered. Not by Guardian and not by PBS who do a reasonable job (and that's why T-man doesnt like them) but by mainstream media: ABC, CBS, MSN, CNN, FOX.

    They're reverberating on ends with the coverage of anti-healthcare fiasko and earlier anti-immigration nonsense. But when it comes to the real issue herein, affecting long-term environment and intergenerational morality, arguably the biggest political issue of current generation, I predict the above media will remain laregely silent. They woul rather prefer a silly soap opera like like pussygate. I rest my case, no more words necessary.

    A truly sadf state of affairs. I personally, would even like to turn blind eye on pussygate (which might be irrellevant to the ability of the president to actually govern the nation) if the president was otherwise a wise leader when it come to doing his job. But media view it differently and turn the priorities around. Really sad!

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Rest assurred, Trump's blitzkrieg on the environment is being covered by all MSM in the US including the broadcast media you have listed.  I have posted links to some of those news reports on the SkS Facebook page and will continue to do so throughout the week. In addition, i am posting links to editorials about Trump's erasure of US climate policy at the federal level. The editorials that I have read so far are quite damning.

  2. Any realistic and reasoned discussion of "Clean Coal" ends up with the understanding that the oxymoron is real, and the concept is not.  

    “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.”

    ― Philip K. Dick

    The Tyrannosaurus-rump (T-rump) has an amazingly large and toothy mouth, a tiny brain (to go with tiny hands) and a dangerous disregard of reality... the TV version not being particularly real.   What we can expect however (IMO) is that he will weary of being the wrong end of the joke and find a way to get medicaled out of the job.  Which will leave us with Pence who is more certain in his ignorance than even Trump can manage.  This does not end well.  

    By 2030 ordinary people will understand what the science has been saying for the past half a century and it will suddenly become a massive priority.   What is the outcome in that case?  

    That is an input I suggest needs to be entered into the models.  BAU and no effective action prior to 2030 and a crash program to reduce CO2 after that date.  

    What can we expect from that?

    I do not clearly know but the expectation of the free-market fundamentalists that there is prosperity in trade is going to be incinerated with CO2 costs of shipping over long distances.  Assertions that there will not be a cost to emitting will be used to eviscerate political parties that are so loudly expressing them now.  

    Will it be enough?  I think not.  I think there will be war on the far side of that process.  The T-rump is bad and his potential replacement no better.   Ignorance is the enemy of democracy

    “if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be”  - Jefferson

    and the USA has embraced it. 

    and I moved to New Zealand ... which is not nearly far enough away :-) 

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  3. 2030. 13 years. Ok. I don't have the answers, nor do you. Is the climate changing? Yes, as it always has and always will. I'll even agree that we are influencing its change. Ultimately it doesn't matter. The Earth's environment will fluctuate to extremes regardless of what one or every man does or doesn't do. Eventually our planet will experience another ice age, the ice will come back. As far as changes to currents, temps, water levels, etc. What complicates one life benefits another. What I find most comical about these discussions is how wrapped up some get, that they want/crave controversy. Step back and really think about it. Would you rather live 100 years ago or now. People will be saying the same another century from now. As long as Mother Earth allows it. 

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  4. Skepty

    "Ok. I don't have the answers."

    Surprised to see you then attempt to offer answers though.

    "nor do you"

    Surprised that you then tell us about your knowledge of past changes that could only be learned from climate scientists.

    "Ultimately it doesn't matter."

    Surprised then that you even bothered to comment. (According to your strange outlook it would make sense to build houses on shifting sand because ultimately they will fall down.)

    "Would you rather live 100 years ago or now. People will be saying the same another century from now."

    Surprise you go into the prophesy game after your comments suggesting extremes will come and go without us knowing about the causes. Did you use tea-leaves to reach this conclusion?

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  5. Shorter Skepty: "I don't know, therefore we don't know."

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  6. Skepty @3 suggests climate will change anyway, so we might as well do nothing abot fossil fuel emissions.

    It's just a weak type of reasoning. Here's another analogy: we will all get old and get some sort of disease, so why bother with medicine at all. I guess there are many such analogies.

    The point is we probaly can't resolve all future challenges like ice ages, but we might as well at least reduce risks that we have some control over. 

    Ultimately it's a question of the level of risk of global warming and whether we can realistically reduce fossil fuel use, and I think we can. The sceptics give me the impression they think it's all too hard, or too complicated for them.

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  7. I don't approve of any of Trump's policies, but I actually feel sorry for Trump.

    Maybe he genuinely believes he can bring back coal, and is yearning for a world of the past. (even I do that sometimes). But the economics says its not going to happen, unless he literally forces people to open new coal mines. Coal and renewaable energy is now very similar in cost, and almost no new coal leases have been applied for in years.

    Apparently approx, 70,000 Americans work in coal and approximately 600,000 in renewable energy. This was in our media, tvone New Zealand and I have no reason to doubt the numbers, but correct me if you have better data.Trumps coal policies can only really shift a few people from renewable energy back to coal. How utterly pointless.

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  8. The Bannon/Sessions push for making coal (and oil and gas burning) less expensive and less restricted is probably to support things like the export of USA coal for burning elsewhere in the world, which is just as unethical as burning it in the USA.

    What is worse is that the likes of Koch owned refineries of heavy oils and bitumen from places like the sands of Northern Alberta produce Petroleum Coke which can be burned and is far worse than coal. That stuff should not be allowed to be burned or be exported. Such a prohibition on freedom to pursue profit would be contrary to the unethical likes of Bannon/Sessions.

    As for cleaner coal, CO2 capture and proper locking away can make coal burning better than burning natural gas (the lower energy production per unit of coal burned is more than offset by the reduction of CO2 emissions). Of course burning natural gas with CO2 capture and storage would be better. But adding CO2 capture and storage on an existing coal burner could be better than building a new gas burner without CCS (if better is measured by what really matters, like CO2 emissions, rather than being evaluated by fundamentally flawed cost/profit/popularity comparisons).

    p.s. The real trouble-makers are the likes of Bannon and Sessions and Tillerson (the ones who were not on the ballot yet now have tremendous influence in the most influential nation on the planet - and who rely on people being easily tempted to care more about their personal interests, like greed and xenophobia, than they do about improving the future for all of humanity). They were making more trouble than Trump long before they chose Trump to be their Potentially Popular Misleading Impression Creation False Idol Poster Boy.

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  9. For those interested in reading the text of Trump's Executive Order:

    Text: President Trump's Executive Order on Energy and Climate Change, InsideClimate News, Mar 28, 2017

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  10. One Planet Only  Forever @8, yes I agree Trump & his team probably want to bring back coal with the possibility of export. It is indeed reprehensible, given the climate issue.

    But I doubt if even those economics will make much sense, with other countries turning to renewables. I think the international market for coal prices isn't too great.


    Coal is also costly to export, given the considerable bulk. We mine coal and export it, but its very hard going financially and many mines have shut down. The most lucrative market is in coking coal (?) for steel production, if you have that grade of coal.

    But regardless, it's risable exporting coal given the climate change issue.

    It's also probably cheaper to have renewables, than complex "clean coal".

    I have read about Bannion, the alleged brains behind the presidency. This guy has a history and has suffered some undeserved traumas, but it has turned him into a bitter, extreme, anti globalist conspiracy theory. It's dangerous when people like that get the levers of power. 

    Others on Team Trump are as you say xenophobic. They are also short term thinkers, who react extremely defensively if they perceive something threatens their lifestyle or interests even slightly.  

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  11. Regarding my comment@8: My comparison of Coal burning with CCS to Natural Gas is based on CO2 capture from emissions being near 90%. The Boundary Dam retrofit in Saskatchewan has this level of CO2 capture (along with nearly 100% SO2 capture and low NOx - however not all of the CO2 is properly sequestered since it is injected to enhance oil recovery from nearby oil fields rather than being put into reliable long term storage). The addition of CCS changed the Boundary Dam Unit generation from 145-150MW to 110-115MW.

    Burning natural gas results in about 50% of the CO2 per unit of electricity that burning coal produces.

    So 90% CCS on coal burning would be significantly better than natural gas burning without CCS (as long as the full 90% captured is properly reliably Sequestered - for thousands of years).

    And even coal burning with CCS (or Natural Gas burning with CCS) is still adding to the CO2 problem, just not as quickly. And since the total amount of accumulated CO2 is the concern, CCS is not a solution. It is just a short term action that would reduce the magnitude of the problem being created compared to not adding CCS to existing facilities.

    The reduction of trouble-making needs to be considered to be "Invaluable", meaning the costs to achieve the reduction of trouble-making need to be irrelevant. The only comparison that is relevant is the costs of the different ways that rapidly terminate the creation of the problem. Delaying the termination of the trouble-making because "Doing More Rapid Reduction of trouble-making" is deemed to be "more expensive" or "less profitable/beneficial for some current day people" is not a responsible action, it is an excuse - a very poor excuse that is tragically easy to make very popular in nations with unjustifiably developed perceptions of prosperity and opportunity.

    The developed lack of ethics and morals among leaders is the real problem. Leaders like Scott Pruit should face legal Recall, meaning removal from their assigned responsibility when it can be shown that they are not competent to properly perform the role they have been assigned.

    Excusing bad behaviour can be popular. But ethically and morally it cannot and should not actually Win anything (even if the bad behaviour is totally legal, since laws or lack of laws that develop unethical or immoral results eventually get changed).

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  12. Skepty@3,

    Would you rather live 100 years ago or now. People will be saying the same another century from now. As long as Mother Earth allows it.

    If your objective in life is to actually make a positive impact on history, surprisingly many people would like to live 100y ago. For example John Mason the author of the very next SkS post.

    The ignorant attitude displayed in your comment ("Ultimately it doesn't matter") precludes understanding and appreciation of positions of other people like that displayed by John, for whom the historical issues of our times do matter.

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  13. Coal is a killer, independent of its affect on AGW:

    Estimates I have seen of the people dying in the US from coal polution range from 12,000 to 24,000, every year.  Estimates of jobs in coal range from 70,000 for direct miners alone, to twice that if transportation is included.  

    Using the estimates that are weakest for my argument, 144,000 work in coal for a year, and 12,000 people in the US die. Or, 12 people work for a year and 1 dies, or 1 coal worker kills someone else every 12 years.

    It would make more sense to pay the workers not do coal.

    (That is more deaths per worker than deaths per drug dealers.)

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  14. Sailingfree @13, yes coal can certainly be a killer. Some research came out a couple of years ago showing burning coal is a much bigger cause of heart disease than previously thought as below.

    I remembered this when I read your comments. Of course there are numerous other problems such as bronchitis etc.

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  15. I post regularly on climate change topics because global warming is on track to change almost everything we take for granted about Earth's climate. That said, Mr Trump will be gone in a few short years, and Mar a Lago will be spongy wet and under water soon thereafter.... What I'm concerned about, and I think the distinction is important, isn't "stopping" carbon burning... Rather, what interests me is no longer needing to burn any carbon at all. In my view, humanity should be 100% focused on only that aim. Anything else takes us off-track. If we had invested only what has been poured down the rathole of fracking, we would likely have fusion power today, and be on the way to a fusion-powered grid now.

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